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The Recent Past

 For the next two decades, the Sinharaja was to lie largely ignored by scientists and the general public. However, by the late 1950's its timber resources had been exhaustively analyzed (Figure 1). In the late 1960's the country began to turn to the lowland rain forests to meet its growing demand for timber. A fresh survey was carried out to confirm the potential of these forests as a source of plywood. Having established this potential the Plywood Corporation ventured upon an over-ambitious programme to exploit the forest of the establishment of a massive plywood sawmill and chipwood complex with to be set up at Kosgama, 85 kilo meters north-west of Sinharaja and to be fed with timber from the hitherto untapped forest of Kanneliya, Nakiyadeniya, Morapitiya, Runakanda, Delgoda and Sinharaja. By 1970, mechanized logging had already commenced in the reserves of Morapitiya and Kanneliya adjoining Sinharaga, and in 1971, amid much protest, logging was extended to the reserve  itself. Within a short period of two years of so, logging trails and roads had been established within the reserve and the forest was in danger of begin totally destroyed. Tow areas of which only one, in the eastern part of the forest (Figure 2), was of sizeable extent.

  The imminent danger through destruction of a forest of a forest of historical significance raised an outcry and a sense of outrage unprecedented in the history of public concern for nature conservation in Sri Lanka. Spearheaded by the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society, and with support form the clergy, scientists and the general public, the protest movement forced the authorities to reconsider the decision to exploit the Sinharaja and to restrict logging operations within the reserve to a 3,000 acre plot. In 1972, to help support the campaign against logging. Thilo Hoffmann, then President of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society, set off on a fact-finding mission, the results of which were documents in "The Sinharaja Forest - 1972, A Non - Technical Account" one of the few accessible general publications on the forest in recent times.

  In 1977, a new government was elected, and one of its first acts was to halt all logging operations in Sinharaja. The workshop for servicing logging equipment set up inside the forest was dismantled and all the machinery withdrawn. In April 1978, the status of the forest reserve was enhanced when it was made an International Man and Biosphere Reserve and thus became of a world-wide chain of such protected areas. These measures were further strengthened in 1988 when the Sinharaja was made a National Wilderness Area and in 1989 when list of World Heritage Sites.

                     With the cessation of logging activities, scientists once more gained access to the forest. In 1978, a pioneer research progamme was launched by Savitri and Nimal Gunatilleke of the University of Peradeniya. Since then, other Sri Lankan universities, state agencies and institutions and voluntary organizations have been involved in research activities in the forest. Educational programmes on the ecological and conservation value of the Sinharaja have also been conducted for school children, the villagers in the area and members of the public. The reserve has now become the focus of interest for local and foreign naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts. Thus there seems to be some measure of hope that this unique Sri Lankan forest once threatened with total destruction would be preserved for the future.